San Antonio Spurs Season Preview & Predictions

Some think the Spurs are old and done, with some better luck with injuries and the development of Hill and Blair San Antonio is a title contender once again.
The Spurs of San Antonio (50-32) ended the regular season second in the Southwest and seventh in the Western Conference. In the first round of the playoffs, San Antonio beat Dallas four games to two, but in round two Phoenix took the Spurs out in four. That was the end to what had been an up and down regular season and a postseason showing that was disappointing.

Sure center Tin Duncan (.518 FG%, .182 3PT%, .725 FT%, 10.1 RPG, 3.2 APG, 17.9 PPG) has been in the league 13 years, but he’s still a major force. Duncan played in 78 games last season and has appeared in 75 to 80 in each of the last five seasons.  The six-foot-eleven Duncan is a smart player who has fine inside skills and decent defensive chops. No, he’s not as effective as he was, but he’s still good. He is an especially fine pick-and-roll man.

Power forward Antonio McDyess (.479 FG%, .000 3PT%, .632 FG%, 5.9 RPG, 1.1 APG, 5.8 PPG), who has been in the league for 14 years, is definitely losing a step or two. He’s a solid inside defender and offers an effective mid-range jump shot. He was the second-best long-range two-point shooter in the league last season, hitting 55.8%.

With McDyess in decline, you can expect second-year player DeJuan Blair (.556 FT%, .000 3PT%, .547 FT%, 6.4 RPG, 0.8 APG. 7.8 PPG) to see expanded playing time. He’s got strength, quickness and an ability to pound the boards, ripping down rebounds.

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With nine years experience and at 30 years old, small forward Richard Jefferson (.467 FG%, .316 3PT%, .735 FT%, 4.4 RPG, 2.0 APG, 12.3 PPG) is also in decline. He’s best from mid-range. Jefferson has lost some of his jump but is still a fine defender.

The question at the point is can Tony Parker (.487 FG%, .294 3PT%, .756 FT%, 2.4 RPG, 5.7 APG, 16.0 PPG), who played in just 56 games last season, regain his health after dealing with plantar fasciitis throughout last season? His production fell off remarkably as his PER went from 23.47 in 2008-2009 to 16.49 in 2009-2010. The change was -6.98, which was the largest amongst players who played in 1000+ minutes in each season. Over the years, Parker has been quick on the transition, an able ball handler and sound defender.

On the other side of the backcourt, is shooting guard Manu Ginobili. Ginobili has great drive, an ability to set up plays and is a tenacious defender. His biggest problem is that he bangs and drives so hard, it’s difficult for him to play more than 75 games a season and some of those he can only play at half-pace.

The Spurs were ninth in both Offensive Efficiency (107.2) and Defensive Efficiency (102.0). Tim Duncan was their top performer with a PER at 24.79. The team was hamstrung though, as Parker missed 26 games, Duncan revealed a decline in his mobility and Jefferson and McDyess were less than exemplary.

If it weren’t for Ginobili’s outstanding March performance and first-year point guard George Hill’s fine work, the Spurs may have just sputtered out. Hill averaged 12.4 PPG, hitting .478 of his shots and .399 from the three-point arc.

Head coach Gregg Popovich (736-362) has been the man in San Antonio for 14 years. They’re the only team in the NBA he has ever coached and he’s won four titles with them. His playoff record is 106-69. Popovich has extremes with which to work, old guys who are in decline and very young players who need experience. Most of the vets are smart and skilled and most will probably be sidelined for 10 games or so this season. Overall, there is a lot of talent here.

Although the Spurs are aging, they’ve made some solid additions that should help them throughout the season. The good news is that San Antonio has a fine front office that is willing to make moves that can be difference makers as the season goes on. This team is a contender and will be in the postseason. A first place finish in the Southwest Division and third place in the Western Conference are in order in 2010-2011.

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